As days and nights get colder you might think about going ice skating.

"This is my kind of day to build ice," says Bill Matthews with a big smile.

He loves his job! It's his responsibility to make sure the ice is as smooth as possible at "Ice On The Landing" at the Choo-Choo in downtown Chattanooga. But sometimes it's high maintenance because of the weather in the Tennessee Valley.


You'd think a very cold day would make the best ice, but it can cause it to crack. Add a steady rain and it's worse.

"It's frosty, crunchy ice. It's not really good," adds Matthews. "So I have to go back and try to cut [that] off and it's just uneven. It doesn't make good ice."

Matthews has decades of experience, is a skater himself, and has ice maintenance down to a science.

He says to get the right kind of ice--softer ice--the weather needs to be a bit milder.

"In the 50s is ideal and maybe down to the high 30s or 40 at night. If it gets colder than that the ice gets really brittle and you have to be a little more aggressive to skate on it," explains Matthews.

Because of swings in the weather, Matthews has to use a chiller system. It sends a coolant, like anti-freeze, through a grid of pipes to help control the temperature of the ice which should stay between 20° and 25°.

"If we were somewhere in the North where it stays below 20° for weeks at a time, you don't need a chilling system. Cold weather is good for you there," says Matthews. "But when we're running a chilling system and trying to maintain ice, it's not good."

The temperature of the coolant has to be checked, too. But no matter the weather, Matthews says there's almost always a big crowd.

"The closer it gets to opening day, the more excited all of our crew and staff get," says Matthews.

Extremely cold weather can also cause equipment and pumps to freeze when they're not running. Also, the staff pushes shaved ice from skaters to the sides of the rink each night to help insulate the rink when a very warm day is expected.

Matthews says It doesn't cost any more to keep the rink up during fluctuating temperatures, but it does require more work and more planning.

Ice on the Landing opens Friday, November 17, at 6:00 p.m.